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Sentence stuns driver's cycling victims

The New Zealand Herald: Sentence stuns driver's cycling victims

By Rachel Tiffen

A woman who ploughed into a pack of cyclists on Tamaki Drive was yesterday ordered to pay $1000 to each of her four victims, as the man she critically injured sat metres away in obvious pain.

It was the first time engineer Greg Paterson had laid eyes on Jennifer Speakman, 20, since she hit the Pickled Pedallers group last September on the popular Auckland waterfront route.

Mr Paterson suffered skull fractures, brain injuries and paralysis to the left-hand side of his body in the crash - described as "absolute carnage" - and spent months in a head injury rehabilitation centre.

The three other cyclists - who were also in the Auckland District Court yesterday - suffered broken bones and serious cuts and bruising.

As Judge Eddie Paul disqualified Speakman from driving for six months and ordered her to pay $4000 in emotional reparation, Mr Paterson shifted in his chair, looking skyward at times.

His face was tight and drawn. Wife Claire and his children sat close by in support.

Judge Paul acknowledged the severity of the cyclists' injuries and the stress caused by the crash, but said he was bound by the law in sentencing.

In December, Speakman pleaded guilty to four charges of careless driving causing injury - one for each cyclist - and was remanded until yesterday so police could fairly assess Mr Paterson's health.

"The consequences are significant, but in terms of what the court can do there is a limit," Judge Paul said. "It is apparent that there were no aggravating features to her driving, that is her speed, bad driving or substances being involved."

The court heard that Speakman had $8000 in personal savings, from which she would pay the $4000 within 28 days.

Speakman's lawyer Frank Hogan said she was a promising, caring young woman halfway through a marketing and public relations degree. She had suffered, as drivers often did, a moment's inattention, he said.

On the morning of Saturday, September 26, Speakman was driving down Cliff Rd on her way to sit an exam in the city when she came to the Tamaki Drive intersection.

Mr Hogan said she was not in a hurry and had use of a car park. Speakman slowed at the stop sign but did not halt, looking left and then right.

For whatever reason, she did not see the pack of cyclists, he said.

"Whether momentarily distracted by the forthcoming exam or by unpleasant news about a close family member I can't speculate," he said.